An Autopsy of Amazing Spider-Man 2

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Jesus, where do I start?

On the broadest conceivable level, most of the movie’s scenes work well in isolation. It’s not until you look at, well… every facet of storytelling that this thing falls flat on its face. For the sake of brevity, I’m just going to link you to Film Crit Hulk’s incredible takedown. He covers just about everything.

We good? Ok.

1. What the hell was Sony thinking?

Coming off the modest success of The Amazing Spider-Man and it’s problematic story, Sony faced the issue of wanting to make it a lasting franchise, and a commercial hit, and a shared continuity franchise like the big boys at Marvel. What they really needed to do was make a strong sequel with market appeal and a tight story that smoothed out its predecessor’s big wrinkles. What they did was hire Kurtzman and Orci.

2. What the hell was Sony thinking?

Can’t say I blame them, at least on a financial level. By and large, Kurtzman and Orci have proven to be extremely bankable writers that seem to have their thumb on the pulse of general audiences (or at least the franchises they’ve worked in do), even if their films are continually panned by critics. In broad strokes, the hallmarks of their style seem to work for Spider-Man: daunted, frenetic everyman with hot lady troubles in a world of over-the-top characters and government/corporate conspiracies. If Kurtzman and Orci do anything particularly well, it’s write a breakneck-paced story with a consistent tone that makes it easy for the layperson to miss flaws in structure and character development. What they really needed to do was to sit back and let Kurtzman and Orci write drafts, receive notes, and just refine the hell out of the script. What they did was shove more stuff in.

3. What the hell was Sony thinking?

What is Amazing Spider-Man 2 about? I thought I knew, but it kept changing. The villainy of Electro? The origin of the Green Goblin? Peter’s quest to figure out his parents’ secrets? Peter’s relationship with Gwen Stacy? Setting up the Sinister Six spinoff movie? Peter’s struggles as Spider-Man? Peter’s struggles as a brainy kid just trying to make ends meet? All of them? What was it trying to say? It’s got at least 20 themes, none of them particularly coherent. As well as all of these stories are handled and for what little consequences they have, Amazing Spider-Man 2 might as well be about none of them. What they should’ve done is delay the project until they had a solid plan. What they did was hype the living hell out of it and release it anyway.

4. What the hell was Sony thinking?

Fucking terror is what they were thinking. By the sounds of it, the company’s suffering losses, and they’ve got to make back some serious cash. Spider-Man seems like they’re only bankable property, although the numbers on  boxofficemojo show the franchise in rapid decline. Whatever, they need cash and they need it in a hurry. Let’s do what all the cool kids –but mostly Marvel- are doing: sprawling movie continuities with comic book characters! Sony’s got to pay the overhead somehow and they can’t risk that on a property that nobody’s heard of. As far as they’re concerned, they’ve GOT to make Spider-Man not only a franchise (which was how Amazing Spider-Man got mangled), but they’ve GOT to make Spidey a shared continuity movie to spawn off other cash-cow franchises like the Sinister Six and Venom.

5. So what should’ve happened?

Amazing Spider-Man 2 (ASM2) shouldn’t have been made.

Seriously, I had a whole essay planned about how it was possible to make ASM 2 an excellent sequel, but given Sony’s demands and given the playbook established by Amazing Spider-Man, that would’ve taken the craft of fucking William Goldman or Lord & Miller to pull off, and even then, I’m not entirely sure.

Oh, a single or double-villain story? Sure, any screenwriter worth their salt should’ve been able to pull that off, but when you factor in all of Amazing Spider-Man’s mistakes and all that Sony decided they wanted mid-production in ASM 2, it would’ve taken the screenwriting equivalent of hitting a grand slam in the major leagues. Retrofitting and cramming stuff into scripts nearly always goes badly.

Where’d all this black stuff come from?

6. Doomed from the start

Amazing Spider-Man was a ponderous mess of a screenplay that made some pretty central mistakes in the development of Peter Parker’s character. Primarily, we don’t know if he’s a nerd, a punk, or an everyman; we don’t know if his story is about ‘great power requiring great responsibility’ or about corporate conspiracies; and there’s no opportunity cost to being Spider-Man.

What does that last part mean? Spider-Man is about the heavy burden of being Spider-Man, who seems, on the surface, to be fun as hell, but is a vocational shackle to which Peter has affixed himself. He tried to use his powers for selfish gain, but it cost the life of his Uncle Ben. Peter would love to cast away his powers in light of his tragedy, but he knows that if he doesn’t use them to help people, it’s like letting Uncle Ben die over and over again.

And that’s what’s lead to him becoming an “everyman” hero instead of being a “nerd hero”: because he’s shackled to heroism, not livelihood, it’s doomed him to a working life of mediocrity when he could’ve easily been a Nobel prize winner. Instead, all of his potential is thrown into “with great power comes great responsibility,” which is why his relationships fail, and why he can’t commit to anything: he’s already committed to something greater. We’re left with a nerd who’s overqualified for everything, but suffers in the mundane.

Like Heisenberg

Amazing Spider-Man doesn’t get that. Spider-Man isn’t a burden to Peter, it’s initially a vengeance game, and later it’s just a game, to the point where he goes so far as to reveal his identity to the daughter of the NYPD Captain who’s declared martial law on him. Up until Civil War, Spidey was known as the hero who most ferociously guarded his secret identity in the Marvel universe, not even revealing himself to his closest allies, the Fantastic Four.

Why’s this a big deal? Because bad things happen when people know Spidey’s identity. Why’s this a big deal dramatically? There are countless dramatic opportunities in Spider-Man trying to balance a social life, academic, and working life while also protecting his identity. Don’t believe me? Look at Spider-Man 2. Sure it was campy, but it knew EXACTLY what it meant to have Peter create his own drama. A love interest who knows why her boyfriend is always late is going to be forgiving and understanding, which creates a dramatic deadzone, until she tearfully realizes that being Spider-Man will always be more important to Peter than she ever will be. Problematically, this ISN’T the Spider-Man in Amazing Spider-Man or ASM 2. There’s no “with great power comes great responsibility,” but “You know what I love about being Spider-Man? Everything.” Which was Spidey’s first line in ASM 2. It’s a power fantasy; the exact opposite of what it means to be Spider-Man.

This mentality prevents Peter from arcing in Amazing Spider-Man, as he doesn’t really learn anything, save that he can get away with anything and the city will love him for it, so long as he saves some people sometimes. As a result, we get a horrifically uneven ending: He’s just saved the city from the Lizard (Happy!), but Captain Stacy, his girlfriend’s dad, was killed in the battle (Sad!), and Peter has to promise to stay away to protect Gwen from himself (Sad!), so Peter breaks up with Gwen (Sad!), but renigs on it cheekily (Happy!). He should be in a PITIFUL mental state, but the movie’s determined to end on a high note. Thanks, Sony.

Furthermore, our post-credits sequence left us with the Lizard talking to God-knows-who about vague bullshit.

FURTHER furthermore, we haven’t wrapped up everything with Peter’s parents, who were apparently at the center of a massive corporate conspiracy at the time of their assassination.

So he’s happy and hopeful maybe, and he maybe has a big fight coming up with somebody, who killed his parents maybe?

“What the hell is going on?”

Fuck, that’s an awful place to start a script from.

So what did Sony want ASM 2 have to achieve, according to Sony? 1. Continue the Peter Parker/Gwen Stacy relationship. 2. Use a popular silver age villain (Electro). 3. Introduce the Green Goblin 4. Continue the conspiracy with Peter’s parents 5. Recreate in one movie the Peter/Harry dynamic that the Raimi films did in three. 6. Lay the groundwork for the Sinister Six. 7. Murder Gwen Stacy (for the fans). 8. Have a happy ending. 9. Make tons of money at the box office. 10. Do this WITHOUT being a reboot.

Double fuck, that’s an even worse place to start from.

You can shove all of Spider-Man’s mythology into the space of two hours, but you won’t get a movie:

You’ll get a mess.

7. Ok, so what REALLY should’ve been done?

Really? Sony owns the movie rights to Spider-Man and his affiliated characters. Start by making movies about those affiliated characters. This lets people forget that Amazing Spider-Man was awkward at best, awful at worst, and will allow you to rebrand as Spectacular Spider-Man, Ultimate Spider-Man, etc. after you’ve had a looooooong time to plan. Ideally, any of these movies can organically lead into Spider-Man with him either being a supporting character or him being the end teaser.

So what could they make?

A. VENOM

Yes, Venom is the antithesis of Spider-Man, but that’s looking at the provincial, 80s version of the character. Venom, or rather, the Black Symbiote, is Marvel Comics’ version of The Thing or The Blob: a terror that could be anywhere at any time, is cunning, carnivorous, and ever expanding/looking for new hosts. You could make this just like the Thing that suddenly reveals itself to be a Spider-Man reference. Hell, you could even do it in outer space with some weird alien race and make it like Prometheus, except the black gunk is what kills.

Not space penises.

Or, you could Nolanize it as a cloud of nanobots that got really resentful of the human race, but need a human host to do their dirty work. Any of these permutations might lead to an ending where a single survivor has managed to escape and make it to Manhattan, not realizing that the Symbiote/Nanobots were biding their time and have leapt to the nearest host: Peter Parker.

By the time this happens, you have the groundwork to make a Spider-Man movie about The Alien Costume (hell, there’s a nice title) with more depth and irony than the comics did; you’ll KNOW the creature is capable of, but Spidey won’t.

And if that doesn’t rock your boat, you could just straight up adapt Truth in Journalism. Or make it the story of a dark vigilante who, even without the Symbiote messing with his mind, is constantly teetering on the edge of sanity.

B. SILVER SABLE

A badass female character who’s the monarch of a war-torn Eastern European nation and who struggles to defend her people and her honor against the forces of oppression. Knowing that, despite her impressive diplomacy, the U.N. will never step in to help, she takes matters into her own hands with a squad of her royal guard-turned mercenaries. Throw in some near-future sci-fi bad guys like those in Metal Gear Solid and some anti-war themes, and you’ve got yourself a ballgame.

C. NORMAN OSBORN

Norman Osborn became the Green Goblin out of desperation, heartbreak, and arrogance. How about “After his own company buys out his shares, leaving him destitute, he takes an experimental military formula, becoming a crazed killer seeking vengeance.” Considering Osborn’s Dark Avengers, leadership of SHIELD, and political influence, why not House of Cards, but with the Green Goblin? Maybe you’d slowly build up to him becoming the Green Goblin to terrorize his company/political rivals on an airplane, which would give credence to the mask and glider iconography.

D. THE SCARLET SPIDER

Few people remember the Clone Saga fondly. I do, but then, I grew up in the 90s. To bastardize the story, after fighting a clone of himself years ago, Spider-Man is shocked to discover that he’s actually the clone with highly convincing implanted memories. Unable to determine what’s real anymore or what purpose he has, he leaves New York to find meaning while his clone gallivants as Spider-Man. The clone’s name? Ben Reilly, the Scarlet Spider.

This could be the Inception or Orphan Black of these pitches. The Amazing Spider-Man might be a clone memory in the eyes of Ben Reilly as he embarks on a road trip of existential and metaphysical discovery (fudge the details a hair) while Kaine, his imperfect clone, hunts him down. In their conflict, both discover, to whatever extent, the meaning of life, or the very least their own existence. At the end, Ben Reilly might head back to New York to stop his creator, the Jackal, and protect Spider-Man, whose life must be in danger.

Y’know, like The Lost Years.

E. CARDIAC

A medical thriller about a “medical terrorist” who steals from medical and pharmaceutical companies to provide medical attention toward the impoverished. Think Michael Moore’s Sicko, but as an action movie.

F. KRAVEN THE HUNTER

Cover of one of the greatest comics ever.

A jungle adventure tale like in movie serials, except near the end, Kraven, a big game hunter and explorer, is corrupted by the influence of a jungle potion that gives him superhuman hunting abilities. Think Congo’s structure, but with a much cooler ending.

G. THE BLACK CAT

An insanely rich heiress rendered destitute by her father’s rivals plots a high-tech and elaborate heist to get her family’s money back… and carve up some revenge along the way.

H. MORLUN

An immortal vampire who can only survive by draining the life essence of people with animal-based super powers. Dracula for super heroes, complete with Dex, his version of Renfield. Frame this as Dex helping Morlun kill the supervillain who killed his parents. As he helps Morlun capture and kill super heroes over the years, his admiration turns to terror and self-loathing until Morlun turns his gaze to New York’s hero: Spider-Man.

I. IDENTITY CRISIS

Short version: After being framed for a crime, Spider-Man affected the personas of other Superheroes until he could clear his name. Exonerated, Spidey passed these costumes to other would-be heroes. Prodigy, a Superman-like hero; Hornet, a bug-themed Iron Man; Dusk, Batgirl but with a suit that can teleport between shadows; and Ricochet, an acrobat with a master of Chaos theory for ricocheting discs. Set this as a mid-low budget comedy about cosplayers who accidentally get real powers and have to defend against a major villain.

J. MORBIUS

A scientist at Oscorp creates the cure for leukemia, but is killed with his serum after refusing to exploit people with it. He becomes a “living vampire,” determined to continue his research while hunted by his former employers. A pacifist unless cornered, he only drinks the blood of criminals. Now you get to choose if it’s a Twilight vampire, an Interview with a Vampire vampire, or a 30 Days of Night vampire.

K. PETER’S PARENTS

Amazing Spider-Man eluded to a massive conspiracy surrounding Richard and Mary Parker, why not make a pharmaceutical thriller taking place before they dropped Peter off with Ben & May Parker, their escape, and their eventual murder at the hands of some roided-up Oscorp freak and what they do with their final moments?

L. STUNNER

A morbidly obese girl gets a brand new body, matrix-style, but despite her vigilantism, she finds that she’s just objectified in a different way and comes to respect herself for who she is. In essence, a deconstruction of the power fantasy of the male-gaze badass female character.

M. MILES MORALES

A teenager of Latino and African American heritage who becomes the new Spider-Man for the ULTIMATES continuity after Peter Parker is killed. This guy’s an EXTREMELY popular fan-favorite character. Perhaps his movie story is how to follow in the legacy of Spider-Man, and what that means for him and the city.

N. THE SINISTER SIX

You wondered why I didn’t mention this sooner, huh? To pull off the single greatest heist in history, a mastermind gathers a team of super-powered criminals from around the world/U.S., but not everybody’s playing by the same rules. Think The Usual Suspects meets The Avengers.

I could keep going. Seriously, I haven’t even mentioned the Prowler, Puma, the Enforcers, the Tarantula, Judas Traveler, or half a dozen other likely candidates.

As eluded, any of these movies could tell an elegant, character-driven story with enough genre elements to keep it rooted in the world of Amazing Spider-Man while leaving for sequels and crossovers. Each of these has natural, built-in themes, arcs, and action, not requiring anything more than a screenplay that knows exactly what it is.

8. This isn’t hard, Sony.

Sony has the brand; all they have to do is play with it a little bit. Most of these will get some internet play by the nerds like me who care, which is enough media attention for the studio to wave its arms going, “THIS IS A SPIDER-MAN TIE-IN!” which could draw in an appropriate-sized audience, if the studio played its cards right. Even more if they cater to niche audiences with uncommon genre films. Everything has a market, you just need to know how big and to whom to market.

Look at these numbers for Resident Evil, a Sony release. Over the entire franchise, they have budgets between 33 million and 60 million, which is enough for all the special effects they need, realistically, and they make gangbusters overseas. Low-budget horror is great for this. Check out The Devil Inside’s numbers. Bad movie, but it used a marketing strategy that worked for it, played extremely conservatively on its opening weekend and got the hell out of theaters before ill-will could spread. A lot of horror works on those kind of exploitative tactics.

These tactics work in the place of spending 200-250 million on production, another 40-50 million (or more) on marketing, and praying to God your movie makes bank at the box office and leaving it there until it does. Like ASM2. It’s making its money back, sure, and is, as of June 11, on the cusp of $700 million worldwide, but franchise fatigue is setting in and a bad script doesn’t help.

So why isn’t Sony making any of these movies with a budget appropriate to their material and with built-in connections to Spider-Man (seriously, look at these ideas. 90% of them could lead back to Spidey)? As mentioned earlier, Sony is in dire financial straits. They NEED a hit, a massive one, and they can’t rely on scrappy little budget genre movies, even with the vaguest name recognition. They need a massive hit, and they feel that they can only do that with a massive name with a massive budget with Marvel having a massive head start.

That’s like betting with a Full House when you know your opponent has a Royal Flush, and they remember how you played your last two hands.

To quote Jim Sterling, Sony doesn’t want some of the money, it needs all of the money.

Right now, it looks like the Amazing Spider-Man franchise might not be able to do that for them, at least insofar as they’d like. That’s ok, though.

Maybe Sonic the Hedgehog will get them out.

Star Trek: Into Defecation

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So Roberto Orci is officially going to direct Star Trek 3. With his screenwriting record and zero equivalent directing experience, everyone’s naturally a little leery.

So hey! Let’s use that as not-topical-anymore excuse to write how I would’ve done Star Trek 2!

Star Trek: Into Darkness was something of a failure. Sure, it made a hefty profit for Paramount, but at the cost of alienating fans with a plot hole-laden script and a writer and director who seemed unable to accept criticism. Profits do not equal critical acclaim. The longer you look at its troubled script, the worse the movie looks –like a cardboard movie stand-up: Pretty, but flat, and with one good shove the whole thing falls down.

Now, to be clear, I don’t blame all of this on the writers or director. The executives at Paramount hired Abrams because he wasn’t a Star Trek fan; they wanted someone to pull in gen. audience, and that largely seems to have been successful, even if he was basically shooting a Star Wars demo reel. There were early rumblings that nobody involved wanted a Wrath of Khan script. Nobody wanted the comparisons, nobody wanted to rehash that story, and nobody wanted the complete lack of surprise such a story would bring, even with Abrams’ Mystery Box ™ approach. The movie just seems to be an epic case of executive mismanagement, containing numerous fan service Easter Eggs like the Caitian Hookers, the Tribble, and Khan so gen audiences could feel clever for recognizing Star Trek ephemera, and so fans would have some semblance of appeasement.

And there are some bright spots in the movie: The crew’s escape from the red jungle planet of Nibiru, and breaking the Prime Directive to save Spock from a volcano is an impressive opening sequence. It frustrated longterm Trekkies, sure, but it’s in line with its predecessor’s action-over-science script. Kirk’s subsequent demotion seems to pull the script in other interesting directions. The attack on the counsel was smart, surprising, and appropriately visceral. Finally, Kirk’s fifth-wheelmanship when Uhura’s having it out with Spock was an inspired character moment. There’s enough good to work with in Star Trek: Into Darkness, but its 9/11 conspiracy vibe, lack of character focus, and countless minor hiccups like kicking a nuclear reactor to make it work blew it all to dust

So what could’ve been done?

1. Make it a Star Trek movie.

You laugh, but I’m dead serious. Make it about alternate dimensions, time travel, philosophy, culture shock, and social paralysis – the kinds of stuff that made the Star Trek TV show interesting. There’s absolutely no reason you can’t do any and/or all of this and still be an action movie.

Further, if you’re going to introduce worldbuilding concepts like the Prime Directive, stating that Star Fleet cannot interfere with the development of alien civilizations, you’d better back that up with major consequences for breaking it –you can’t introduce elements for convenience’s sake, like using Alien blood to bring a character back from the dead so the audience doesn’t get sad. Actions need to have consequences and consequences have to matter.

3. Be true to your story and characters.

Paramount’s logic seems to have been “We want to tell Wrath of Khan, but we don’t just want to retell Wrath of Khan, so what do we do?” Well, what about Wrath of Khan does everyone remember? Kirk’s sense of loss when he loses Spock. It’s Kirk’s moment where the weight of his pride and supposed invincibility come crashing down before his eyes. He’s lost his friend, his truest friend, and it’s happened at the hands of perhaps a superior captain. Let’s tell that same story, but a little differently.

4. Star Trek (2009)

Much has been made about how Star Trek (2009)’s Kirk is the cockiest sonuvabitch who ever joined Star Fleet, and that’s completely fair. He’s a cheater, a womanizer, mocks his friends’ woes, is frenetic as hell, and if he’s learned anything, it’s that rules can be broken or ignored as long as you look good doing it and you don’t screw up. Having saved Star Fleet from a galaxy-ending threat, he’s riding high on his laurels and feels all but invincible.

God, how this is important going in.

5. Star Trek: Deus Ex Machina

Our story begins with the Enterprise crew stealing a medicinal herb from Nibiru’s people while Spock prepares to freeze a volcano from destroying the tribalistic Nibirans. Yes, that’s interfering with a society, which is breaking the Prime Directive, but there’s a crazy space plague ravaging the galaxy, and this strange plant’s the only means of stopping it. And Kirk, who beat the odds by beating the Romulans not too long ago, chest-beat his way into the task of once again saving everyone –but it HAS to be a clandestine mission. Admiral Pike was firm on this. The Nibirans cannot know they were there. It plays out much the same as Star Trek: Into Darkness did: Kirk and Bones run away from the Nibirans, barely escaping to the Enterprise hidden beneath the waves. Kirk’s triumphant: he’s got the medicinal herb, but Spock’s not going to make it; he over-calculated the time remaining until the volcano’s eruption. Kirk’s got a choice: listen to his friend die, or break the Prime Directive to fly Spock out, thereby exposing the Enterprise itself to the Nibirans. It’s cocky, impulsive Kirk. What do you think he’s going to do? Kirk flies out Spock after Spock had just resigned himself to death. The Nibirans go apeshit seeing the Enterprise and, in religious fervor, draw Enterprise shapes all over the dusty red ground. Safely onboard, Spock’s aghast that Kirk broke the Prime Directive. Kirk laughs it off, saying that this is like the 5th time he saved the galaxy. Nothing’s going to happen.

Back in Star Fleet, Admiral Pike yells the shit out of Kirk. Sure, he saved the galaxy from the space plague, but he deliberately broke the Prime Directive, doing God knows what to those crazy Nibirans. Kirk tries to argue his case, but Pike yells back that Kirk KNEW this was supposed to be a stealth mission and he cocked it up. He suspends Kirk without pay until a military tribunal can figure out what to do with him. Kirk drinks at an expensive bar, angry about it with his friends, who, apart from Scotty, think he’s a dumbass. Uhura and Spock didn’t show up. Not getting the support he wanted, Kirk retires to his incredibly expensive apartment and attempts to call 2 Caitian hookers for a good time. Problematically, his credit card is declined: Here we see the real Kirk: a cocky as hell Star Fleet Captain who lives like royalty paycheck to paycheck. Spend it all, wait half a month, and spend it again. And now that he’s potentially lost his rank and certainly lost the respect of his friends… it’s all worthless. Drunk, he dials Spock, who wakes up next to Uhura. Sensing his friend’s hurt, he beams himself to Kirk’s apartment, where, seeing that he can’t stop Kirk from drinking himself into a hole, he drinks with him. They tell each other stories about their past missions, Kirk laughing his ass off and Spock trying extra hard not to laugh. You know what happens. The “I love you, man” moment. Between besties. Spock’s the only person Kirk’s ever seen as an equal. The only person he’d trust with his life. And the only person he’d be lost without. Spock quips that he’d better not let Uhura say that. Kirk laughs that Spock CAN joke–

That’s when the explosions hit. Giant-ass beams of light from space blow the shit out of shipyards all over Star Fleet. The only image from these attacks? A giant ship from the depths of space, impossibly big and impossibly powerful. Reluctantly, Pike calls the one guy he knows who’s taken on something of that size: Kirk –but only as a consultant. He fucked things up too badly otherwise to be anything but. At a council meeting where everyone’s trying to find a diplomatic answer to halt the attacks, Kirk’s outspoken about blowing the living shit out of whatever it is. Pike silences him on the spot, telling him just how tenuous his consultation is. Brooding out the window, Kirk notices a light growing in the night sky. He screams everyone out of the building just as a giant-ass laser blows it to kingdom come. Outside, Kirk and Pike are among the few survivors. Pike reinstates Kirk as captain, telling him to gear up and do everything at his disposal to stop this threat.

Kirk receives a hero’s welcome back onto the Enterprise –except from Bones, Uhura, and Spock. They remind him, in private, that his arrogance is what got him into trouble last time, and he’d better watch it. Kirk laughs it off, but Spock reminds him that laws are in place for a reason… for safety, for humanity, for galactic stability. Kirk appears to quiet, looking very closely at him, then slaps him on the shoulder, making a jibe about Vulcans needing senses of humor. Kirk rallies the troops with an impassioned speech, and relaying the plan: fly in with the remaining fleet, cripple the enemy vessel, board, and capture the enemy captain for military trial and interrogation. The fleet blasts into maximum warp and Kirk fires photon torpedos in warp –planning to be well ahead of an enemy with potentially superior firepower. Star Fleet erupts into combat, peppering the Colossal Ship with a hurricane of lasers and torpedoes, barely scratching its surface. Goddamn is this thing big. Dwarfs the Romulan ship from the previous movie. Ships fall left and right of this thing, all shots having no effect. Kirk orders the fleet to concentrate fire around one of its engines. At the cost of a few more ships, they blow out an engine, and now it’s down the Enterprise. Knowing death is upon them, Kirk makes the craziest move he can think of: fly the Enterprise into the destroyed engine’s crater to breach its engineering bay and continue with the plan of capturing the enemy captain. Everyone reminds him of how stupid this is, but what choice do they have? They crash land into the enemy ship and exit in space suits, ready for anything—

…and step into a jungle. Wild alien plants of all shapes and sizes, unimaginable creatures skulking through the undergrowth. Flames rage about the Enterprise, devouring parts of the jungle, a force field preventing it all from being swept into space. Kirk & Co. step out into it, utterly flabbergasted. Behind the trees and vines, machinery, immaculately maintained. Nobody knows what to make of it. It all looks very familiar to Kirk… A platoon of alien soldiers burst from the trees, all waving rifles and shouting in an alien language. Kirk & Co. have their phasers up, trying to yell off the potential attack—when one of the platoon steps forward and removes his helmet ONE OF THE NIBIRANS. “Please, surrender peacefully. We don’t want you to destroy any more of the ecosystem than you already have. We will not harm you.” Kirk doesn’t buy it, but Spock does. He talks Kirk into it. The Nibiran platoon leader leads them through the ship, multiple decks of sprawling landscapes of every kind, each containing unique sets of flora and fauna. “Regrettably,” the platoon member says. “The small environments have lead to a constant feeding ground. We’ve already lost 34 species of native flora. 52 species of native fauna.” Kirk & Co. don’t know what to say. The ship’s bridge is built like a throne room where the Matriarch of the Nibirans sits. She’s waited a long time to confront the great deceiver, Captain James Tiberius Kirk. Kirk’s confused as hell. She explains.

Countless millennia ago to her people, but just a month to Kirk, the Enterprise took off from the Nibiru after apparently rising from the sea to stop the volcano, and the Nibirans took the Enterprise as their new God. Cults formed around it, and they traveled the land in the name of their God, Metal Bird, conquering by the sword, raping and torturing until all fell under heel. They had relics (discarded phasers) far beyond their ken that were capable of killing. Soon, all on the continent worshipped the Metal Bird, believing it to protect them in times of catastrophe, only for disaster after disaster to fall upon their people, leading only to ruin. Still, they persisted over the centuries, and through countless holy wars, scientists grew, developing great machines of war in the image of the Metal Bird. Countless millions were killed. The planet was raped of natural resources and many walks of life paid with extinction until, at last, the Nibirans developed warp drive technology. The Federation paid them another visit to welcome them to the stars… but they were not Gods, just men. Weak, shallow, simple, mortal men. And those foolish mortals had allowed the “great” Captain James Tiberius Kirk to continue gallivanting the stars, acting as he willed, prompting the rise and fall of civilizations with his egocentric twist on exploration. Star Fleet had changed under his example, twisting into arrogant, exploitative, space bullies. The Nibirans wallowed in metaphysical angst as all they had ever known and believed crumbled to ash thanks to the lies of Star Fleet and the late Captain Kirk. They bided their time, studying and rapidly enhancing their technology until such a time as they could develop time travel for the express purpose of revenge: They would go back in time and become the new Gods of the universe, watching Star Fleet and the arrogant Captain Kirk skitter before them as ants. They would seed Earth with their plants and animals, enabling them to rebirth their planet.

Spock questions them: “You wouldn’t go back and time and destroy the Enterprise on Nibiru to prevent your culture’s corruption?” The Nibiran Captain admits that the volcano and the Enterprise’s exhaust created a field of tachyon particles too dense for time travel to go back any further.

Plot hole scarcely closed, the crew of the Enterprise are taken to a holding cell, where they’re left to watch helplessly as the Nibiran armada jumps, ship after ship, to their position, preparing for the grand sterilization and terraforming of Earth. Bones blames Kirk for breaking the Prime Directive on the Nibiru, kicking off a shouting match, primarily between Uhura, Spock, and Kirk, with Scotty progressively yelling “shut up” louder. Finally, they all stare: Scotty unlocks their cell, which will allow them to escape, but they’ll have to be really stealthy. Kirk & Co. sneak through the artificial environments of the ship, determined to warn Earth at any cost. They manage to get their weapons back, but with the Nibiran platoons alerted, they make a frantic escape, falling from one artificial environment to another, losing crewmates along the way. Finally, it’s down to the main group: Kirk, Spock, Uhura, Bones, & Scotty. Scotty and Spock manage to hack a hovering elevator thing back to the ship, but they’re constantly trying to prevent it from being counter-hacked by the Nibirans as they attack. In the process, Bones is killed as is Uhura. Uhura tells Kirk that back on the Nibiru, the hardest thing she had to do was helplessly watch him –her one true love- very nearly die. Spock would’ve died a thousand deaths for Kirk. Could he do the same for Spock? Spock continues to work with Scotty, barely repressing his grief. They barely make it into the Enterprise, but Scotty is gunned down by a platoon soldier. Kirk takes off in grief as Spock Vulcan ass-kicks the Nibiran soldier to death. Kirk and Spock warp to Earth. The Nibiran Captain lets them. “It doesn’t matter now,” she tells her crew. “Prepare for warpspeed 10.”

Kirk and Spock reach Earth, and Kirk gives a speech to all available ships in the galaxy to convene on their position –the fate of Star Fleet and galaxy hangs in the balance. As ships one by one warp into formation, Kirk laments the loss of the crew and his arrogance, blaming his superiors for allowing him to go to Nibiru in the first place. Spock can barely look at him. He sits at Uhura’s station, saying that he didn’t even get to say good-bye to Uhura. She’d tried to say good-bye to him on Nibiru, but he’d been off in his own head. Failing to let her know how much she meant to him. Kirk doesn’t know what to say.

The Nibirans’ Colossol ship arrives, and we have a balls-numbing space ship fight, Star Fleet clearly outmatched. The Fleet lays in ruin, the Enterprise held in a tractor beam; the Nibiran Captain plans to make Kirk watch the terraforming of his planet. That’s when Spock reveals his greatest secret to Kirk: he’s been analyzing the red matter (the time-travely-black-hole-makey stuff from the first movie) and has enough for one jump back in time. Only one. Kirk has to stop his younger self from saving Spock from the volcano. Kirk can’t do it. He can’t do anything without Spock. Spock tells him that he’s the finest captain he’s ever seen or studied, that he’s served under. That (echoing Uhura’s words), he’d die a thousand deaths for Kirk, and this time, Kirk would have to let him do that. Kirk swears he can’t do it. Spock puts him in an escape pod wired with the time travel device, and just calmly tells him how it works –that he’ll appear in the same escape pod at the critical moment- hearing, but not responding to Kirk’s protests. Finally, Kirk agrees, devastated. He hits the trigger. Just as the world fades to white, Spock parts his fingers: “Live long and prosper.”

Kirk finds himself in the Escape Pod bay a few months into the past on the Niburu. Hearing com chatter that Kirk and Bones are nearly back to the ship, Kirk runs like a bat of hell to meet them. There, he pulls his past self aside, trying to convince him of what he has to do, of what’ll happen in the future if he doesn’t. Past Kirk oddly takes him seriously. “Though I would’ve looked older.” “What?” “The last guy from the future –he looked older.” The countdown’s running, there’s no way to beam him out. The Enterprise would have to fly out to reach him. Past Kirk’s on the verge of doing it—but Our Kirk stops him, telling him his experiences with Spock in the future, saying that Spock would die a thousand deaths for him… “And we have to let him because you—I made a stupid mistake. This is our fault. The galaxy shouldn’t have to pay for it, and we know it.” One by one, the crew says their good-byes to Spock. Past Kirk struggles for words. Spock says them for him. “You are the finest captain I’ve ever known, if highly illogical. It was a pleasure and an-” And the volcano erupts. After a moment, Our Kirk fades into nothingness. Tears streaming down his cheeks, Past-now-present Kirk brings the Enterprise out of orbit, the Nibirans too entranced by the volcano to notice.

They hold a traditional Vulcan funeral for Spock, jettisoning an empty coffin into space. Distraught, Kirk attempts to contact the Nimoy Spock on his communicator, but to no avail. Elsewhere, Nimoy Spock watches his empty casket float by, deliberately not answering his communicator. Kirk returns to Star Fleet humbled, changed. He requests to be taken off special assignment details to Admiral Pike’s great relief. Instead, he wishes to take his crew on a mission that would’ve befitted his late friend: “…to take the Starship Enterprise on a five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

6. Boldly Rewriting

First off, I apologize, knowing this thing isn’t completely airtight. It’s a first pass, and ideally would’ve been rewritten several times before hypothetically going into script form, and rewritten several times after that. Sci-fi scripts naturally need that kind of attention –the kind of attention it doesn’t appear Star Trek: Into Darkness received.

First off, Star Trek (2009) was Kirk & Spock’s story of overcoming personal differences to form an unbreakable friendship. Mission accomplished through deus ex machina and crazy science. Where does their story go from there? Star Trek: Into Darkness really doesn’t care; it’s more interested in government conspiracies that Kirk & crew are only pawns in. As such, my outline would’ve both dealt with Kirk & Spock’s friendship and what that means for them and crew, as well as audience perceptions of Kirk’s douchebaggy arrogance in the first movie. What do you do with a douchebaggy asshole who’s just saved the galaxy? You render his triumphs failures and bring him to his lowest possible point for the drama to continue. Kirk didn’t really have an arc in Star Trek: Into Darkness. For all intents and purposes, Kirk was written out of the story just so Spock could have the reverse “KHAAAAANNNNN” scream and so he could punch Benedict Cumberbatch on a flying brick thing. So how do you make it Kirk’s story? You make it about him. Not about Khan’s feud with Admiral Marcus. You have him drive the story by making choices (violating the Prime Directive), suffering the consequences (expulsion from Star Fleet), rising above them (brought back in by reputation), suffering more consequences (losing countless lives to an enemy of your own creation), and rising above it by learning a valuable lesson (swallowing your pride and owning up to your mistakes).

This is all pretty simple, elegant stuff that creates its own mythology rather than bastardizing old mythology. It does this without shoehorning Alice Eve into a movie to have a gratuitous bra and panties shot. It tells an action-heavy, character-driven, thought-provoking story…

…and it does this, Paramount, without pandering to anyone.

7. Unoriginality

Yeah, so it’s similar to my Man of Steel retcon idea, but when the material calls for it, the material calls for it. Come back next week when I propose time travel and alternate dimensions to make Amazing Spider-Man 2 better.

Actually, I promise I won’t.